The Gators have had issues at quarterback since Tim Tebow left the program following the 2009 season, but the offense hasn’t had nearly as many issues when it comes to the backfield.
Florida’s running backs have once again held their own in 2018, as the Gators have rushed for 2,254 yards through 11 games, with 18 of the team’s 40 touchdowns having come on the ground. The Gators have rushed for 590 yards and six touchdowns since the 38-17 loss to Missouri — a game that saw Florida register a season-low 113 rushing yards.
“I wish we could play Missouri again tomorrow, man,” UF junior linebacker David Reese said. “They still got us again this year.”
Meaning the offensive formula heading into Saturday is clear: establish the run to open up the offense for quarterback Feleipe Franks.
“It’s going to be very critical. Once we establish the rush, I feel like everything else will open up, like any football game,” Gators right guard Fred Johnson said. “We establish the run, open up passing lanes and stuff, I feel like the game can take off from there.”
Outside of the defensive line, Florida State shouldn’t present much of a challenge to the Gators — if they stay true to what’s helped lead the team to the cusp of a New Year’s Six Bowl.
“Who wouldn’t want to be in a New Year’s 6 bowl after going, like, 4-7 last year? It’s just something we’re striving for just to get back on track and get Florida where it used to be,” UF running back Lamical Perine said. “Everybody is going to be looking at that, of course. If they say they’re not looking at it, they’re lying. Yeah, they’re lying.”
Florida’s offensive line, now with its third coordinator in as many seasons, has gradually improved now that offensive line coach John Hevesy has returned to the program. Facing a Florida State defense that ranked No. 35 in the country in rush defense, Hevesy said the team expects the ’Noles will look to rotate frequently among the front seven with the hope of fooling Florida’s offensive line. If the Gators can neutralize the FSU defensive line, the rest of the game could be a piece of cake — and an invitation to a New Year’s Six Bowl in January.
“We just have to do our job. We have to get off the ball. We have to make contact. They have some pressures in moving around a bunch,” Hevesy said. “So, it’s just keeping our feet, keeping our base, covering them up, and we have great (running) backs. We need to give them a little hole to get going, and get to that second level.”